Archive for February, 2010

It may not be a leap year, but write your proposals with love…

Posted in creativity with tags , , , , , on February 28, 2010 by wisdomlondon

By Kate Spiers, Director at Wisdom London

As a busy and all-too-short February draws to a close, I’ve been thinking about what make client proposals stand out and really deliver. Proposal writing demands patience, care and a genuine desire to understand and interpret what your client needs.  Love it or loathe it, there are some simple steps you can take to make your proposals compelling, effective – and exactly what you client wants to see.

Here are Wisdom London’s top tips:

1. Preparation is all

Before you even put pen to paper, have you completely understood your client’s requirements?  Have you taken the time to re-visit project objectives with your client to make sure you mutually agree what the deliverables are, and what success will look like? This is a must.

2. Clarity is the key

Make life easy on your client – ensure that what you are presenting them with is concise, clear and easy to understand.  Once you’ve presented the proposal, they should be able to go back to the document, in whatever format, and easily pinpoint the key elements of what you propose to do, the deliverables, timeframe and cost.  Creating a final, brief overview with these key elements is worth the time and will be appreciated.

3. Differentiate yourself by personalising your proposal

The chances are that you use a standard template, or overtype old proposals for similar projects. It may be reassuringly familiar, tried-and-tested or simply quicker than reinventing something, but just sanity-check with yourself that this is the best format for your client.  But everyone is different – think about the person to whom you’ll present this: Are they a details person? Are they visual thinkers? How can you translate that to your proposal?

I heard once of a winning proposal accepted by a totally cut-to-the-chase CEO, which simply said:

“We will deliver XXXXX project for you by XXXXX at a cost of XXXXX.”

Yes, the voiceover went into more detail, but the CEO connected with the bold approach of an agency who had taken the time to understand what he wanted to see and hear.

4. A proposal is a proposal – not a project plan

Don’t fall into the trap of being too operational in your proposal.  You should know at this point what the operational model for the project looks like, but this information is not for a main proposal document. Refer to tip 2 above – too much operational detail gets in the way of what you need to get across, which is: What kind of value you will deliver, when and for how much.

5. Present with love

Spend as much time at least on preparing to present your proposal as you did writing it – don’t let your proposal down! Needless to say, you must inject authority (“we know what we’re doing”), passion (“we love what we do”) and energy (“we’re ready to do it”) into your presentation style – even if it’s simply a conversation rather than a full-on presentation scenario.  Make sure that your client understands all of what you have presented.  Take time to ask whether you have covered all that they need you to cover.  Ask for initial thoughts, and be prepared to re-work elements that don’t hit the mark. Use the opportunity to work collaboratively with your client to make the proposal exactly as your client needs it to be.

6. Don’t leave it there

Every proposal provides us with a learning opportunity – make sure you use it!  What did you get exactly right?  What parts of it did your client really connect with? What did they find confusing?  What needed to be reworked? Recalling all of this, and taking the time to consider ways in which you can use this learning in the future is a truly worthwhile exercise.

Do you have any proposal-writing tips to share? What has worked for you in the past? Any unusual approaches that resulted in success?  Tell us what you think!

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Through the Looking Glass: Immerse yourself in another world

Posted in marketing strategy, wisdom with tags , , , , on February 23, 2010 by wisdomlondon

I think Alice had the right idea by wondering about what lay behind the looking glass in the drawing room.  Was it all the same, only backwards?

When it comes to our clients’ worlds, it’s worth wondering, and it’scertainly worth finding out. It’s all too easy to slide into the trap of assuming that we’re all looking at the world through the same eyes and mindset.  Logically, we all know that’s not the case.  So why the lack of curiosity?

Well, we get stuck at our desks, plugged in to the cyberworld, with deadlines to meet.  But immersing yourself in your client’s world (or that of your target audience) – just for an hour, even – can pay huge dividends, and never fails to turn at least a few preconceptions on their heads.

And if that brings you just a step closer to connecting with your client, that has to be a good thing, right?

So here are Wisdom London’s Top 5 tips for connecting in a B2B environment:

1. Person to person

Make time for face-time. Ask questions – but different questions. Find out how they feel. What’s on their mind today? How do they feel about the week ahead?  What’s going to be their biggest challenge? Ask: “What can I do to make your life easier?”. It might be providing some information, accelerating an aspect of a project plan, or something as simple as buying them a coffee, or it might just have been the fact that you asked.

2. Shake up your reading list

What does your client or target client read? (if you don’t know, just ask…) – and what do their clients read? Get out to the newsstand, buy and read a few publications that inform their world, and that of their target market.  It could take you right the way from the consulting sphere to The Grocer, via Marketing Week. Monocle via I.D.  And so on.

3. Align online

Who does your client follow on Twitter?  Get plugged into some of the same people.  Ask them to suggest their own ‘Twitter Top 5’ and follow them. Same with blogs.  Interact online with other interesting people in your client’s sphere.

4. Make yourself at home

Work at your client’s offices when you can.  Sit by someone you don’t know and get to know them. Request access to your client’s intranet and use that information to understand what’s making the organisation tick.  Close the loop: Ask if you can contribute a news article to their intranet / internal newsletter.

5. Don’t take your eye of their prize

Who are your client’s clients?  Most of the time, we’re helping our clients sell to their clients better, through whatever the value is that we bring. From hedge funds to haircare, from to health to legal services, you need to understand that world as best you can. Which is, perhaps, another looking glass to step through…

Kate Spiers is founder and director of Wisdom London

(un)conventional wisdom: Fraser Doherty

Posted in wisdom on February 22, 2010 by wisdomlondon

We’re all about doing things a little differently, so Wisdom London brings you weekly wisdom from unconventional sources – this week, Fraser Doherty, founder of Superjam.

Fraser founded Superjam as a teenager and has gone on to enjoy huge success with his fabulous product. Take it away, Fraser:

“Hopefully my story is one that shows that something that starts in a kitchen, bedroom or garage can grow into a life-changing adventure that challenges the status quo in an established industry and ends up supplying massive organisations, like Waitrose and Wal-Mart.  I’d urge anyone excited by the idea of starting a business to never be afraid of giving their ideas a shot.  Start small, try hard and take advice from people who’ve done it before.”

See more here: http://www.superjam.co.uk/blog.html

With thanks to Fraser Doherty.

Can niche social networks compete with the big boys?

Posted in marketing strategy, social media with tags , , , , , , on February 19, 2010 by wisdomlondon

It’s hard to believe that Facebook turned 6 this month. I mean, hasn’t FB always been around? And what did we do before, when we wanted to tell the world what we’re doing at the weekend? Can anyone remember?

I met with entrepreneur Ivan Massow this week to take a trip down memory lane – 10 years back, to the start of the millennium when life was increasingly moving online. It was then that Ivan founded Jake, one of the first online social networks, and aimed specifically at providing a network for gay professional men.

Ten years is a long time in cyberspace, we agreed, as we looked back at the inception of Jake. Was it a given that Jake would be online, I asked. According to Ivan, yes. The idea of online groups, bringing together friends, colleagues or simply those with a shared interest was taking shape (remember Friends Reunited?) and as a rule, states Ivan, the gay demographic are early adopters. So Jake was born, providing a safe (paid-up members only), filtered (professional) and vibrant online space for business connections to be made. Added to that were – and still are – face-to-face networking events, special interest groups (media, culture etc) and a messaging service, JakeMail.

So far so good. In the past 10 years, Jake has attracted around 40 000 members and a whole host of high-profile sponsors and advertisers, mostly in the luxury and lifestyle markets (think Porsche, Mulberry, and so on).

But, I wondered, how has the advent of social media as a business communication norm changed things? The market is now very different. The behemoths that are Facebook and LinkedIn dominate – ubiquitous, constantly evolving and, critically, free. So how does a niche social network like Jake compete? Does it need to? And can it compete?

Well, the answer it seems, is not so clear-cut. First and foremost, Ivan said, Jake can compete for the very reason that it’s niche. It fulfils a very particular requirement that many other social networks do not. For a start, it’s an open book once you’re a member: all members are gay professional men. So, suggests Ivan, a certain amount of pre-qualification is already done. You know the score. Unlike other social networks, for example, you don’t need to be ‘introduced’ or ‘friends’ or a ‘connection’ before you can start to network or contact new people.

On the other hand, however, the tech-savvy business world demands more from their social networking these days than they did 10 years ago. It’s not a case of choosing one social network or another to be part of. Not only do we belong to multiple networks, but we increasingly expect them to interoperate, to better suit our needs. So that’s where Jake’s going as it’s functionality is overhauled: LinkedIn and Facebook functionality will be introduced, along with iPhone and Blackberry apps. And basic membership will be free, with members paying only for specific business services online.

So, it seems, competition is not necessarily the key. All social networks offer something different and the chances are, we’ll happily consume all that they have to offer, so long as it suits our needs and especially if it’s for free. There’s space for all of them so long as they do their job and make our lives easier, more interesting and more connected. As Ivan pointed out, we’re all fundamentally the same as we’ve always been, even when we were running round in loincloths. We want the same things. We still need to forge bonds, build communities and connect. That much won’t change.

Wisdom’s 3 factors for success: Niche online networks

  1. Actually be niche. Do it well, stick to it, build on it, don’t deviate. Your ‘nicheness’ is your richness.
  2. Create a specific, niche world within your network by choosing the right affiliations for advertising and sponsorship, partnerships and services, that reflect your target membership’s aspirations.
  3. Constantly notice how your members interact, both within and outside of the network. What do they need? Do they have to go elsewhere for certain functionality – and could you provide that?

Image by Astrid Harrisson

What are your experiences of niche social networks? Will they survive? How many social networks do you use? Are there any niche groups that need their own social network? We want to hear your thoughts!

With thanks to Ivan Massow, Astrid Harrisson and Sarah Killick.

Wisdom London is here!

Posted in wisdom with tags on February 16, 2010 by wisdomlondon

I’m very excited to say that Wisdom London, creative communications consultancy extraordinaire, has arrived. It’s been two months of planning at break-neck speed, but we did it!

Here at our blog, we’ll be sharing our thoughts, ideas and questions on all things related to communications, marketing, brands, business and more.

Yesterday I caught up with Ivan Massow, serial entrepreneur and founder of Jake (a social network founded 10 years ago for gay professionals) to talk about the future for niche networks, now dwarfed by the behemoths of the social media space – Fabebook, LinkedIn and so on – but in demand nevertheless.

Watch out for more here shortly on our conversation.